How to handle rejection in sales: A guide to shrugging off the sting of rejection and the venom of failure

byRiya Uppal, Kylie Bolton

Rejection in sales is a fact of life. Whether it’s the actual rejection or the fear of it that gets you trembling, you can never escape it.

No matter how great your pitch or enticing your offer, you will have to face your share of lowdowns. It’s how you deal with it that counts.

So how do you overcome the nasty rejection and/or the fear of it?

Read on to discover eight easy tips to help you handle rejection with confidence—and meet your goals despite it.


Be a honeybadger

Let us start with a little background on these ferocious little beasts.

A honey badger is about 25cm tall from the ground and about 60cm long from head to tail, weighing about 15Kg. They are found in Africa, West Asia, and India. 

Here are some surprising facts about the honey badgers, named “world’s most fearless creature” by Guinness world records:

  • they can withstand a bullet from a handgun
  • they can fend off multiple lions alone
  • they feast on scorpions or venomous snakes for dinner
  • they can survive a cobra’s bite

Isn’t that impressive? Just so you know, a fully connected and injected cobra’s bite can kill an elephant.

These fearless predators are met with a lot of difficulties from a very young age, such as mean bites or stings from their prey. Sometimes to the extent of getting knocked out unconscious. But they rise up and get back at it. Every single time.

By the time a honey badger reaches adulthood, it’s a tough, fearless, tenacious and relentless beast.

What does honey-badger have to do with sales?

Straight up, I can not think of any role that needs this attitude more than sales.

The world of sales is full of rejection and failures. Only the objections in sales don’t come in the form of scorpions or snakes, but in different phrases, “It’s bad timing,” “I’m too busy,” “I have to think about it,” “I don’t know your company”, among others.

Matter of fact, less than one in twenty i.e. 5% of cold approaches (calls, emails, social actions) are successful. Out of these, about one in five i.e. 20% prospects become customers.

So as you can see the odds are stacked against you. 

The good news is,  these numbers are enough to set you up for success in your role.

Repair and reinvent

You know that rejection and failure in B2B sales is inevitable, and that it helps you grow. But we all dread it nonetheless. 

So the question comes up, how can we keep the venom of failure and the sting of rejection from derailing us?

The key to handling rejection is taking stock of the situation, learning from it and pacing forward.

So the next time you find yourself hearing a stream of no after no, use the following strategies to repair and reinvent.


1. Create a Routine

When faced with rejection, it is easy to fall into a pattern of procrastination and avoid  other prospecting calls and emails. Sometimes you just want to prolong hearing no again. 

 Instead of falling into  a slump,  set a routine for yourself and re-prioritise your tasks. 

The mornings are what we call high-energy periods. So, every morning till noon is when to perform your more complex tasks and achieve the goals that bring the highest value when met. A prospecting goal for instance could be to increase your outreach calls by ten percent every week.

Dedicate your medium energy periods to skill development or preparing for sales calls. And lastly, activities like replying to emails that are not urgent or adding comments on LinkedIn can be left for  low-energy periods as your workday comes to a close.

Sequencing your goals in this way ensures complex tasks are completed before you lose momentum. Even if you do not meet all goals, you would have met the ones most impactful to your company’s bottom line.


2. Set and adjust goals

Set goals for your sales team outside of their standard budget objective to create an atmosphere for improvement. 

Gaining a certain number of new contacts or even improving the quality of your sales pitch all count as behavioral targets that new members of your team can constantly work on. So, adjust goals and escalate them over time based on your sales rep’s performance. 

If you  are sending sixty emails per week and you would like to reach one hundred, set waterfall goals for yourself. Increase  your target for the next week to seventy emails and then eighty the following week and so on. 

Missing targets can be demotivating, which is why this approach focuses on maintaining morale and at the same time builds on motivation to improve. 

Mentor  advice  is also an effective way to handle rejection in sales, especially  when you hit a rough patch, which happens to everyone. I suggest you attend a  sales conference or event once a month to start off with. These kinds of events are an opportunity to get mentored by not just one but numerous voices in the industry.


3. Evaluate the nature of the rejection

Rejection in B2B sales can occur for numerous reasons. Your prospect may have budget limitations, lack decision-making power, the timing may be off, or perhaps they had a bad experience with a prior sales rep. 

Instead of simply saying thank you for your time and hanging up, find out why they rejected the offer. Whether it is due to circumstances out of your control or something you did to turn them off, you may learn a valuable lesson that can help you the next time you are on a sales pitch. 

One of the best ways to handle rejection in sales and maintain emotional distance is to take stock and adapt. In other words, adopt a growth mindset and consider each no as a learning experience.

For example, Your selling technique may be undermining trust with your prospects because it is lacking customer-centricity. Ask yourself the following questions after each sales call to remain focused on your prospects.

  • What do my prospects need?
  • How can I solve their problem? 
  • Why did they decline the offer?

If it is the case that your product lacks a feature or your prospect did not have the budget,  you could ask whether you should reach out at a later stage. For instance, when you upgrade your product or in the next quarter when their financial situation changes.


4. Remember that not everyone is your prospect

Approach prospecting like a sorting process. Out of all the potential prospects in your market, you are trying to find those that are ready to purchase. They may all purchase sooner or later, but your goal is to qualify prospects displaying an urgent need. 

There is no need to educate an infinite amount of contacts. Prospecting is about gathering data and asking the right questions. 

An unending stream of no’s may in fact be a clue that you are targeting the wrong market. In other words, another way to handle rejection in sales is to see it as a clue that you are selling to the wrong people.


5. Refuse to internalise failure

Getting over the sting of rejection is easier for sales reps who master resiliency. This soft skill is all about bouncing back, not repeating mistakes, and brushing off rejection rather than internalising it. 

Goal-orientated and competitive sales reps can be quite critical of their failures. So, help your sales team to see that rejection in B2B sales is not a reflection of their personal worth. We often blur these lines, but having a lower close rate than your  colleagues means that there are flaws in your selling technique, not that you are an incompetent individual. You simply need more practice and training or  Help in the lead qualification process.

Your sales team can separate their failures from their identity by keeping track of their daily achievements. Regardless of how minuscule they may appear, celebrating small victories or progress can help give you the psychological boost you need to see your performance beyond your cold outreach. 

Even if you did not make a sale that day, acknowledge your other achievements and the skills that got you there.


6. Let go of the need for approval

Many sales reps are drawn to this line of work because they enjoy the social aspect of meeting new people, being part of a team, or because they want recognition and to be rewarded.

These characteristics are often the ones that become your Achilles Heel. In other words, fear of failure or rejection comes from a fear of being judged and the need for this approval from those around you.

We enjoy doing business with people who like us. Who does not? However, when you feel like you need to be liked by your prospects, bigger problems surface. Constant rejection or rude behaviour from prospects can dim your light.

Below are some effective strategies to shift your thinking and handle rejection in sales:

The first thing you need to accept is that you are never going to please everyone and you do not have to. Instead, focus your efforts on fully qualifying your leads and prioritising those that display intent.

Approval, flattery, and praise are not what will get you the sale at the end of the day. So, set pride aside and focus on providing value and seeking respect from your prospects.

Lastly, trust your own decisions and do not look constantly for validation by asking for instance, “Is that not right?. Take charge of the situation and explain to your prospects what you think they need.


7. Know your strengths and weaknesses

As a salesperson, we put too much pressure on ourselves to be a model sales rep when we should be playing true to our strengths. 

Your unique personality has a major role to play when responding to failure. Someone who takes a gamble on ideas will respond to failure quite differently to someone who takes failure personally. 

So, let us take a look at common personality traits and the differnet possible ways to handle failure.

Risk-taking personality types: Some of you will be risk-takers, meaning you see failure as part of life and when rejected you tend to simply move on to the next lead. If this sounds like you, I have only one piece of advice: take some time to understand why the deal did not go through, adapt your strategy and then move forward.

Cautious personality types: For those of you who are not risk-takers, have perfected your technique and see no need for change, do not become too complacent. Failure may surprise you, so revisit your B2B sales strategy and sales stack to ensure you are adapting to your industry and your prospect’s needs. 

Idealistic personality types: Then there are those of you are really optimistic and passionate about your ideas. While it helps to be imaginative in sales and to always keep striving for the big picture goals, failure can actually be a beneficial speed breaker for you. It is your reminder to maintain a balance between being practical and getting carried away with your ideas. 

In our experience, there are numerous outcomes beyond your control. So ask yourself if there were any red flags that you overlooked because you were too focused on your idea. 

Assertive personality types: Last but not the least, if you are strong-willed, persistent and do not let anything stop you, take a step back and introspect. If you are constantly steamrolling through every obstacle, you may miss the bigger picture and overlook divergent paths to your end goal.

There is always more than one approach, so for your next challenge, look around for obstacles before heading straight.


8. Invest in technology to make better use of time

Your sales stack is all the technologies and software solutions you use to perform your role. Some are more essential while others offer you extra value. As we live in an increasingly digital world, your technologies can also be your second eyes and help you handle rejection in sales. I  will even go as far as to say that strategic planning and data will always be an exit strategy and the foundation for better B2B sales outcomes. 

There are so many modern sales tools that can majorly improve your B2B sales efforts. From collaboration platforms and content automation tools to forecasting and sales insights tools.  If you want to read about this in detail, feel free to jump onto our earlier blog post, “A long list of sales tech for your B2B sales stack [routinely updated]”

Let us look at some of these in more detail and how they might help you become better at your job.

Your CRM is the key to organising and prioritising your leads effectively. But beyond lead management,  your CRM software can also offer you a deeper look into your success and failures. For example, you can find out what times of the day or on what days of the week, you are experiencing the most rejection. You can even analyse your technique deeper by looking at your response times and follow-ups.

You can become more aware of your prospect’s behavioral indicators with intent data tools such as Leadfeeder, Leady, or Bombora. These tools enable you to identify non-converting website visitors and retarget them with reverse IP lookups. 

Sales automation software such as hubsell, outreach.io or salesloft can drastically help you to improve your outreach. hubsell’s outreach software, for instance, integrates with your favorite CRM and offers multi-channel outreach campaigns with personalised messages. 

Your campaigns are a vital place to look for areas of improvement. So, make it easier and more time-efficient for yourself by using the analytics and metrics that  hubsell’s single dashboard offers you. 

Forecasting and sales insights tools, such as Clari, Ebsta, Boostup.ai, and Trinity Perspectives are also important for analysis. These tools can help you keep up with your quarterly targets by gathering data from your sales and revenue portfolio and revealing access points to your short and long-term goals.


Final thoughts

Let us face it, no matter how good you are, rejection and failure will always be part of the sales process. What you can, however, control is how you handle rejection in sales. 

It really helps to approach your frustrations with a logical lens and alter your approach in these situations. The above strategies to handle rejection in sales are an opportunity to not only reset your mindset but maintain morale as you carry on crushing your sales targets.


New readers

For those unfamiliar with hubsell, we provide an end-to-end B2B prospecting solution with on-demand generated B2B data and multi-channel personalised outreach automation software to generate qualified sales leads.

Book your discovery call today to see how you can scale your opportunity generation.



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